Publishing about Asia in Academic Journals and Book Series (Roundtable)

) Richi Sakakibara, Waseda University

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2) Richi Sakakibara, Waseda University
The Politics of “Cultural Exchange”: Representations of Japan under the Cold War Scheme

After seven years of U.S. occupation, Japan allegedly achieved independence and re-joined the international community in 1952. In effect, Japan entered into the Cold War regime, becoming a valuable ally to the United States. This shift in status meant that the image of Japan held during the Occupation period needed to be re-formulated—from the image of a “student” learning democracy from the United States to that of a partner on equal footing. This paper focuses on this repositioning of Japan in the 1950s by looking at the 1954 Atlantic Monthly supplement entitled Perspective of Japan. As the subtitle, “Gateway to Japan,” clearly demonstrates, it was meant to serve as a guidebook for American readers, introducing a new Japan through an emphasis on Japanese culture. The supplement contains articles on Japanese architecture, fine arts, theater, religion, and popular entertainment, as well as translations of literary works by Ihara Saikaku, Dazai Osamu, Hasegawa Nyozekan, Eguchi Kan, Tanizaki Junichirō, and Kawabata Yasunari. Modern Japanese literature was given prominence, but any political significance was downplayed—if not suppressed entirely. I will inquire into the political implications of these apolitical representations of the “new Japan.” In particular, I will explore Edward Seidensticker’s role not only as translator of Kawabata’s Izu Dancer and Tanizaki’s In Praise of Shadows but also as the expositor of “mysterious” Japanese culture within the Cold War scheme. I will also argue that the U.S. position vis-à-vis Europe significantly affected the way Japan was represented within this cultural politics.

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